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Council OK's Tyler Estates basin improvements

The Bemidji City Council on Monday voted 5-1 to contribute an additional $36,000 toward the expansion of a water basin in the Tyler Estates development.

In October 2005, the City Council voted 6-1 to authorize the spending of $138,000 toward the construction of a 20-acre basin on the east side of Bemidji near the intersection of Tyler Avenue and Power Dam Road in the Tyler Estates subdivision.

The area had experienced springtime flooding and the drainage basin was planned to prevent similar flooding in the future.

However, city staff recommended that the city contribute funds toward further improvements and expansion of the basins

Councilor Nancy Erickson opposed the expenditure in 2005 and voted against the additional cost on Monday.

The Tyler Estates basin was constructed to hold more than 100 acre feet of runoff. But, due to a variety of issues such as gravity and placement of drainage culverts, it collects only about 60 acre feet of water.

In order to get the basin to hold 80 acre feet of runoff, a pump would occasionally be needed, City Engineer Brian Freeberg explained on Monday.

Additionally, a frozen culvert this past spring prevented gravity flow, creating a backup which threatened homes in Tyler Estates, according to council documents.

"This is going to be an ongoing problem," Freeberg said.

Upon review of the project, staff recommended that the basin be expanded.

The cost of the extra work - construction of an additional elevated berm, backup culvert placement and installation - is $108,000, of which the city will pay for one-third, or $36,000.

Erickson said the developer should be responsible for fixing the problems, stressing that the city has already paid for improvements in the area.

Freeberg responded that the developer fulfilled the requirements of the agreement, and the city is asking him now to do more.

Erickson asked if the nearby Tyler Hills development in Bemidji Township is worsening the problems in the area.

Freeberg explained that the developer had already met all of the City Council's requirements. The developer also has implemented other measures that were not required in the original agreement, but were later recommended by the city, he said.

"This is the area that collects the water whether there's a development there or not," said City Attorney Alan Felix.

Councilor Ron Johnson said the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board should be able to take action to prevent similar problems in the future.

"We have a process in place so this would be a lot harder to happen," he said.

While the majority of the council ultimately voted to approve the expenditure, Mayor Richard Lehmann said it was frustrating.

"It's still kind of a bitter pill to swallow," he said.

Despite the basin improvements, in the event of a large-scale flood, water in the area will still be a problem, Freeberg explained, and water will need to be directed somewhere else. A $500,000 pipe will be needed at some point to direct water elsewhere, he said.

Improving the basins should postpone that need from the immediate future, he said.